MPR News with Angela Davis

Returning land to Native Americans

A man stands outside on a snow-covered field.
Robert Larsen, chairman of Lower Sioux Indian Community, stands on the prairie at the Lower Sioux Agency in Morton, Minn. The historic Dakota site was part of a 114-acre parcel that the Minnesota Historical Society officially returned to the tribe in February.
Hannah Yang | MPR News file

Roughly 50 million acres of land in the United States is considered reservation land — held by the government in trust for Native tribes. That’s about 2 percent of the country, but that’s a lot less than the acreage once set aside for tribes in the late 19th century through treaties. 

Now tribes across the country are trying to reclaim some of those millions of lost acres within their reservation boundaries. 

At the end of 2020, Congress passed legislation to return over 11,000 acres to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe in northern Minnesota. Some tribes have been able to purchase land with revenue from casinos and other economic development projects. Across the country, state and local governments and religious groups have also sold and given land back to local tribal governments. 

Guest host Dan Kraker talked with three guests about efforts to return and buy back Native land and why land is important to Native identity and sovereignty.